The original Gravitas pen was highly successfully with all finishes selling out quickly and many requests for more to be made, especially in the two ‘Skittles’ finishes. Moving forwards we were introduced to the Entry and Pocket pens, and more recently the Sentry. Based on my previous experience I put my name down to be alerted for when the Rainbow Skittle finish Pocket Pen was to be launched.
The rise of Gravtias is an open book in perseverance and moving forwards. At a time when many of us were losing our jobs due to the affects of the Covid-19 pandemic on industry, rather than sitting back and looking for new work in a much shrunken field, furniture designer and cabinet maker Ben Walsh invested his savings in the equipment to allow him to use his love of design, engineering, and pens. The results was the original Gravitas pen, which by word of mouth was gradually picked up by penablers and vbloggers on both sides of the Atlantic. Arguably the Skittles finish did more for shiny rainbow effects than any other pen prior, including the likes of the TWSBI Vac 700R Iris plus the Conklin and Laban Rainbows. Thing is this was not Ben’s first foray in to pens as he had previously started Ben Walsh Designs a number of years earlier, during which he had experimented with concrete pens.
Now I’ve managed to unintentionally hype things up it is time to get down to basics and if the pen is any good. Before I start I should point out this pen has been thoroughly abused, and that does reflect in my views. For the past three and a half months since it arrived this pen has been attached to my Midori Traveller Passport journal, which I always carry with me in a pocket when out of the house. Now with a suit or sports jacket it may be relatively snug and secure, but much of the time the pocket has been in various forms of cargo pants and so the pen has bounced around. A lot. Also it has been dropped a number of times, partly because being metal it can slip out of the leather Midori Traveller pen loop I use.
So what we have here is a classic shaped and sized pocket pen, made popular by Kaweco and Pilot where the barrel is placed in the cap to provide a full length pen. Ben’s twist on the format is a single facet along the length of the cap allowing the pen to be safely placed on it’s side. While strictly speaking not a roll stop it does work as one and if you tilt or push the pen with the result of it starting to move then the facet is wide enough to slow the pen down and stop it. The only external markings is the Gravitas emblem/rune on the cap.
So it could be argued that the main shtick with this particular model is the PVD Skittles finish. The colour spread is random, and I would have preferred a little more yellow/orange on mine, however the patterning is very similar to my original Gravtitas with it’s polished Skittles finish and all this is just my personal preference. Now it is often touted that PVD is very strong, if not near indestructible, however Ben has never said this and I thought I should mention it now as you will see some signs of wear in the pictures.
The cap is ever so slightly longer than the body, but this is a necessity to allow a size #6 nib to be used. As with his other pens, the Skittles PVD finish continues just inside the cap with the threads being further in. Unscrew the section from the barrel and you see threads on the former have been beautifully coated.
The barrel is not deep enough to take a converter nor a Monteverde mini variant, however there is plenty enough space for a short international standard cartridge so the Kaweco squeeze bulb may fit if you want to risk it. While for the majority of people there should be no need, I have added a small spring behind the cartridge to keep it in place, but more on my abuse of the pen later.
The pen comes with a JoWo size #6 nib installed, with plenty of options available. Presently these are unbranded and I have no issue with this as it helps Ben keep the price down, and even if pen prices were to rise (which I think they will need to do if sold through retail stores) then the nib remaining unbranded should not be a problem, after all other much larger companies do this. I do not know if Ben even has time to dip test pens, I know most small pen makers just screw the nib units in and package up. Mine was a fine, which wrote like a EF. Smooth but very dry. I do wonder if Ben could do a collaboration at some point with Jose Munuera, who after all is just down the road and they do know each other. It would not make financial sense for Jose to test/check every nib (while Franklin Christoph do this it probably adds $5-10 minimum to the price of each pen), however a Gravitas pen with some of his speciality nibs could be an interesting concept.
In the hand, without posting, the pen is usable, but not for long, but then this is not the point of the design. Cap on the back and it is of a decent length, nicely balanced, and with plenty of options over how far up or down you can hold the pen. The threads are low, so hard to notice and if you do then they are soft despite being metal. The section is textured with very fine rings to aid grip. I am not sure how well these will show on the photos, though light does play nicely off them, they are subtle enough to not be noticed unless you slide a finger along the section. The cap posts securely, as you would hope with this design, however a downside to the PVD coating is there is very little grip to keep it in place so if you hold the pen further back and have not fully pushed the cap down then it can start to slide off. Alas sliding the metal inner threads of the cap hard over the barrel also means there is a little wear showing and this will get worse with time. It is the nature of this sort of pen. Consider it a patina of use …
The next few paragraphs cover things the vast majority of you will not encounter, after all I am quite open about the abuse my Pocket Pen has received. Please bare this in mind.
One problem about metal on metal threads is there often is not enough traction to keep them closed if there is any quantity of vibration. This is why locking nuts, split pins, etc are used in vehicles and industrial machines. Now for most fountain pen owners this is never going to be a problem, but when the pen is going to be bounced significantly around then things can come undone, and for me that has been the case. I quite often find the cap loose when I come to remove the pen and a couple of times I have found the barrel lying in my pocket. The barrel and section threads suffer more, though here there is no risk of inky fingers when the do part. You may have noticed a comparison picture above of a pair of sections. This was provided for me by Ben himself as he is aware of the potential issue with the barrel coming undone as the new design allows for an o-ring to be used. This not only should secure the barrel in place but also will allow the pen to be eye dropper filled.
The other problem I’ve had is not unique to this pen and again very much caused by being bounced around in my pocket. Basically the cartridge fell off the peg. While there is not enough space for a mini converter there is a gap behind the cartridge. I was in a supermarket and went to use the pen to mark an item off my shopping list, except it would not write. Surprised I went to check if the cartridge was empty except I could not remove the barrel, it felt like it had been welded on. Back home I managed to open things up to find the cartridge left behind in the barrel and ink on the threads where it had been seeping through. How long the cartridge had been off the peg I have no clue, but it was probably a while. If I am not out of the house the travel journal sits on its side on a table, so it could have been like that for anything up to a week. I suggested to Ben the possibility of an option spring (like TWSBI do with the new Swipe) however apparently the gap it tighter than I thought. I’ve found a small thin spring which I have dropped in and I can hear no rattling, so I do not fear a repeat.
In case you think I’m picking on the Gravitas Pocket Pen, the following has occurred with it’s predecessors:
- The inner unit on my Lamy Dialog 3 used to regularly start to unscrew.
- The converter in my Pilot E95S came loose and while bouncing around started to act like a piston so when I took the cap off it was full of ink.
- With both the Pilot Vanishing Point and Platinum Curidas ink was forced out of the nib/converter and collected behind the trap door. After a while with both of them I would go to write and find a drop of ink falling on to the paper.
- When the Kaweco Sport was eye dropper filled it would routinely dump half its ink in the cap (sadly this pen wrote far better eye dropped filled than when using a cartridge).
- The Kaweko Sport cap would come off and one time the barrel dropped in the pocket of tan pair of cargo pants, the nib touched the fabric and much of a cartridge of Diamine Oxblood seeped in to the material making it look like I had been stabbed in the leg.
As I said, by the nature of how the pen is carried around I can be truly brutal to a pocket/travel fountain pen.
I did mention earlier about signs of wear on the PVD finish and also pointed out Ben does not say it is indestructible. The down side to this style of pocket pens is the threads inside the cap will catch the barrel on posting and occasionally the section when closing and I am seeing signs of wear with a yellow colouration (first coat ?) coming through. There is also blue spot on the barrel caused by me dropping the pen. No dent though.
Packaging wise the Pocket Pen comes in a brightly coloured cardboard tube, slightly smaller than the one used for my original pen and this time without a Gravitas hologram on the top. I would actually suggest the tube looks better without that. I’m not sure if the regular finishes come in the same tube or if it is just with the Skittles. With the latter there is also the smell of the namesake sweet sprayed on the inside. Some have commented that they like this quirk, I personally do not but then I keep the tube in a draw with other pen boxes and others just throw them away (hence why Ben uses cardboard packaging). The tube and a small pack of cartridges arrived in a padded envelope.
So what are my thoughts on the pen? It fits a particular niche that works for me. Sure the nib is on the dry side, but unlike with the Kaweco Sport I can swap it for a nicer writing one if I wish. One of the advantages of a pen maker going with stock JoWo or Bock nib units. Sure the cap and barrel occasionally come lose, but that is rarely an issue, and who knows perhaps I could offer my services to Ben to punishment test his future pocket pen designs and modifications 😉 . As with my previous Gravitas pen the build quality is superb and the tolerances tight.
Would I recommend this pen to others. For this specific model then I would suggest you ask yourself if you are going to use a pocket pen, have you experience of living with a Kaweco Sport or similar. The nature of the pen means as a carry round it is great but when posted you are always going to have some back weight, it is not avoidable. If you are fine with this style then yes go for one. Starting at €65 plus P&P (~£55/$75) it’s a similar price to an aluminium or brass Kaweco Sport but better made, writes better with the larger (and arguably far better) nib, and is smaller unless posted, at which point it is longer in the hand. Now if you think the pen might be a bit small for you or the compromises of the design put you off but you are considering another Gravitas fountain pen model, then I’m also happy to say go for it.
For my Pros/Neutral/Cons list this time it will be slightly different as I will not be including issues I have highlighted as coming through my rough treatment of the pen. It would be unfair and also I would not do the same for past or future pens used in the same way.
- Skittles finish.
- Build quality.
- Facet works very well at preventing and stopping rolling.
- Size #6 nib in a pocket pen.
- Price/value for money.
- Minimal packaging (most will not have a problem with it but some people like their branded boxes).
- Scented packaging.
- Pocket pens by nature are a compromise in design to keep the size down but keep them usable.
- Cap threads are causing a little wear on the PVD finish.
You will note that rather than just a couple of shots alongside a ubiquitous Lamy Safari/Al-Star, I have also taken a series with other pocket pens, which are (in order L-R) Pilot E95S (JDM only model, Pilot Elite in the USA), Papermate Ninja, Kaweco Sport, and Franklin Christoph Pocket 66.